Dell, $5.99, ISBN 0-440-23553-7
Historical Romance, 1999
Red Roses Mean Love is an intriguing but ultimately flawed debut effort from Jacquie D’Alessandro. It has one fatal flaw: the hero. Lord Stephen Barrett is so lead-brained that braining from a telephone pole is too good a fate for that nincompoop.
Lord Stephen Barrett is badly wounded as a result of some dastardly deed, and is nursed to health by sweet, innocent Hayley Albright. He’s content to let everyone think of him as a mere tutor instead of the pompous ass of a Marquess of Glenfield. He soon finds himself falling for Hayley’s kind, warmth generosity and love as well as her lively family.
Stephen starts out a man who is in need of love. Poor man. He is bewildered when these family of Hayley’s accept him with open-arms and kindness. His own family lacks affection and warmth, and hence he can’t help but to be cynical.
But cynical he is, and for way too long past his shelf life as a romantic hero. If heroism is a value I can measure from 0 to 10, Stephen starts out a 9 and plunges to -10,000 by the last quarter of the book. This idiot is a living sponge: all he does is to take, take, take everything from Hayley, from her hospitality to her virginity. This man is torn, guilt-ridden, et cetera, but hey, he sleeps with Hayley the day before he intends to walk out of her life (he can’t bring himself to tell her that), and leaves her a note in the morning. He generously stays away, and when a broken-hearted Hayley goes to look for him, he decides that Hayley is better off with another man (I agree utterly) and flirts with other women to drive her away. When things are looking bright for these two, he suddenly has it in his hollow skull that Hayley comes after him because she knows he is a titled aristocrat and calls her a mercenary slut. Never mind that she has given him all she has, she has to be a greedy whore. Like I said, I would love to stuff a grenade in that man’s mouth.
Worse, these two people would have never gotten back together if not for the matchmaking machinations of Hayley’s youngest sister and Stephen’s brother. Hence, I close the book with pretty low confidence in these two’s longevity in matrimonial bliss. I mean, the man doesn’t even want to make the move to go back to her until he is practically prodded to do so – how motivated will he be in the long run? He never contributes a thing to the relationship except for heartaches.
The writing is fine and there are some good humorous moments here, believe it or not. But Stephen makes all that is good about this story pale in his unworthiness. As a result, Red Roses Mean Love reads like a well-written tale of a selfish jerk taking advantage of a giving, misguided, and rather naïve woman.